Swine flu (influenza H1N1) hit Eugene-Springfield hard starting in October 2009. Gladly, the worst of that epidemic has ended. Many children and parents became sick, some spent time in the hospital, and the vast majority came through a very unpleasant illness without serious damage.
But buckle your seatbelts, because we still have the annual epidemic of seasonal flu and RSV (“respiratory syncytial virus”). Seasonal influenza A usually begins in January or February, and is characterized by fever, chills, intense body aches, congestion, cough and sore throat. RSV is the most common cause of colds, bronchitis and pneumonia in children. RSV starts with excessive runny nose, sneezing and sore throat, followed by coughing and sometimes wheezing. Both influenza A and RSV are extremely contagious, spread by respiratory droplets shared between people by coughs, sneezes and touching surfaces coated with droplets of mucus.
Strategies for keeping yourself healthy for the rest of winter include:
- Wash your hands and your children’s hands frequently. This is the No. 1 way to prevent the spread of disease.
- Learn to sneeze and cough into your elbow rather than into your hand. Touching surfaces with dirty hands spreads germs.
- Keep your hands away from your face, as rubbing your eyes and nose with dirty hands is a sure way for germs to enter your body.
- When your family gets home from a germy place, everyone should wash their hands and face and change clothes.
- Get adequate rest. Fatigue wears down your immune system.
- Eat right. Unhealthy diets prevent your immune system from working its best.
- Stay home when you are sick, and don’t send your children to school sick. Return to work or school when at least 24 hours have passed without fever.